Today, we learn courtesy of TechCrunch that the next OS update, Android 2.2 (Froyo), will support native tethering and Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities. What is unclear, however, is how these features will be implemented with different device carriers.
For example, Apple's iPhone 3G and 3GS support native USB and Bluetooth tethering. However, AT&T disables these features in the U.S. due to the fragility of its 3G network. Tethering can, however, be re-enabled on the iPhone via jailbreaking and performing a few hacks, or by installing an "unauthorized" application like MyWi.
It seems unlikely that most carriers would simply give away the ability to tether freely with their smartphones -- Verizon may be the exception with the Palm Pre and Pixi+ because the carrier is basically giving away the smartphones due to a stockpile of inventory.
In addition, Sprint is charging $29.99 for Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities (provides sharing for up to 8 devices) on its upcoming HTC EVO 4G Android 2.1 smartphone.
While it would be amazing if Android carriers would break the shackles and allow free tethering and Wi-Fi hotspots with their "unlimited" data plans -- in the same way they allow Google Voice -- we're not holding out breath either.
In addition to the tethering options, Android 2.2 is supposed to bring some welcome speed improvements as well. Android 2.2 is reportedly up to 450 percent faster than Android 2.1 in some operations thanks to a new and improved just-in-time (JIT) compiler.